Red Ink By Angela Makholwa
Release Date: 2007
Genre: Crime / Psychological Thriller
Setting: South Africa
My Rating: 4 Stars
When Lucy Khambule receives an unexpected call from a convicted serial killer, nicknamed The Butcher by the media, her life takes a dramatic turn. The Butcher wants Lucy to tell his story. Intrigued by his approach Lucy decides to take this opportunity to fulfil her dream of writing a book. (Source: Goodreads)
This is definitely the year I begin pushing my reading boundaries to new levels and I am excited about it. Earlier in the year I read Children of Blood and Bone – an afro futuristic, fantastical YA book that I absolutely loved it, I moved on to Arimah’s Short story collection which has a number of magical realism, afro futuristic themes I enjoyed, I even read Ngugi wa Thiong’despite my misgivings and now a Psychological crime thriller!! Who am I turning into? I like her!
It starts with him charming her and asking her for a date. While on the date, he strangles her and then urinates on her and slices her breasts. Once done, he swears at her and cuts off her head.
This is how this book opens up and right off the bat, it gives you chills and leaves you paranoid, looking over your shoulder. Woe unto you, if like me, you start reading this at night! The descriptions of the crimes are so graphic and vivid, they place you right at the scenes. Reading this book, I felt like I had been transported to the set of Criminal Minds or CSI.
Lucy Khambule is a former journalist, turned Publicist. She lives in Jo’burg and her career as a Publicist is really taking off, save for the strenuous relationship with her once friend, now business partner Patricia, who appears to be out to screw her over. She lives a comfortable life and is a doting mother to her four year old son, Diseko. Five years ago while working as a crime reporter, she wrote to Napoleon Dingiswayo, the serial killer nicknamed The Butcher, asking if she could write a tell-all book about him. Writing a book is one of her life long dreams.
Fast forward to five years later, Lucy receives a called from C-Max Maximum Security prison and on the other end of the line is Napoleon Dingiswayo telling her that he received her letter and would like for her to visit him in prison so they can discuss the tell all book that he wants her to write. For Lucy, this is an intriguing offer and she agrees to it and this sets in motion a series of more murders and bizarre events – but with Dingiswayo in prison, who could be killing all these people around her? Did they catch the wrong serial killer?
There are so many twists and turns in this book, nothing is as it seems. We are introduced to Napoleon’s younger brother who is icy and has the ability to manipulate Napoleon even whilst in prison, there is KK a rich businessman/publisher and Fundi’s new love interest. Fundi is Lucy’s best friend. And there is a mysterious sponsor who takes care of Napoleon. All these people’s lives are intertwined and linked in shocking ways.
This book is fast paced and the plot moves quite fast as well. I was spooked and at times quite frustrated, especially with Lucy’s naiveté and seemingly lack of awareness which did not seem very believable for such a up and coming, savvy, modern, intelligent woman. I wanted to shake her out of her reverie and make her see things for what they really were.
This was Makholwa’s debut and it is a brilliant book. The crime/psychological thriller genre is not something I have seen often in African Literature. We definitely need to see more of these coming out of Africa.
Have you challenged yourself this year? What have you read that was out of your comfort zone? Leave me a comment.